Hawks giving Isaiah Taylor ‘freedom and confidence’ to score

(AP Photo)

When Isaiah Taylor first signed with the Hawks, he said the best way or him to prove he belongs in the NBA is to focus on being a play-maker. That certainly was true during his short stint last season with the Rockets. They were (and are) a contending team on which Taylor played most of his minutes alongside Eric Gordon and Trevor Ariza.

But now Taylor is with the Hawks, who are rebuilding and looking for young players to develop as part of their core.  Signed on the eve of the regular season, Taylor is trying to earn a regular role as the backup point guard behind Dennis Schroder and most of his minutes will come alongside one-year vets who likely are not part of the team’s future.

The other day I wrote that Taylor’s speed is an asset as a play-maker and screen-roll defender but that he seemed hesitant to take advantage of good opportunities to score. Apparently, Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer has been telling Taylor the same thing.

“Coach, he actually encourages me to score a lot,” Taylor said after practice today. “Getting more in that flow, knowing when to shoot and when to pass and getting more acclimated to the offense just takes practice time and game time to feel a little more comfortable. Right now my teammates and coaching staff have been doing a great job helping me feel comfortable out there on the court.”

Taylor played 16 minutes against the Bucks on Sunday. He also played 16 minutes at Chicago but that was with Schroder out of the lineup. Against the Bucks Taylor played ahead of Malcolm Delaney, who stayed on the bench during the second half.

It remains to be seen if Taylor will be a permanent fixture the rotation from now on. Budenholzer said the Hawks have been “really happy with Isiah’s play” but added that both Taylor and Delaney “give us good options as the backup point guard.” Budenholzer noted that he’s played both Taylor and Delaney alongside Schroder at times.

How can the Hawks help Taylor develop?

“In some ways, confidence is a great first step,” Budenholzer said. “Giving him a little bit of freedom and a little bit of confidence. With that, I think he’s improved a lot as a shooter and hopefully continue to encourage him and embrace him shooting when he’s open and be aggressive. He’s got a good natural feel, so maybe encouraging him and building his confidence.”

Speed is Taylor’s most obvious attribute. In limited playing time with the Hawks that has translated into a high free-throw rate (six FTAs in 52 minutes vs. nine FGAs) and five of his nine field goal attempts were within five feet of the basket.

Taylor’s speed also allows him to make plays like this:

Among the top five lineups used by the Hawks, the best net rating (34.6 over 14 minutes) by far belongs to the alignment with Taylor, Marco Belinelli, Kent Bazemore, Luke Babbitt and John Collins. That’s an intriguing offensive lineup with plenty of play-makers, two plus shooters and Collins as the roll man. The 56.3 effective field-goal percentage produced by that group is by far the best of the top five lineups.

If Taylor can become more of a scoring threat, it would boost the second unit even more. The Hawks are urging him to do it.

“This is an organization where we all play as a team,” Taylor said. “Everybody is trying to get better. Coach, he does a great job, (he) and his staff, of installing confidence in me and instilling our confidence in our other players to go out and do what we can do.”

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